An historical look at treatments for human conditions of mental distress – are the same parameters still driving treatments?

by Julia Evans on August 24, 2011

In a programme which claims to celebrate the best in British history[i], “Ruby Wax takes a look at some of the grisly techniques that were used on patients inside Victorian asylums.”  I commend you view them about three-quarters through the programme at Watch in HD.


These treatments were implemented by trained, well-meaning, medical practitioners in order to restore normality to their patients.


Are the same parameters still driving treatments?



Diagnosis, via NICE clinical guidelines, is still driven from a point of authority.  The Doctor is not now allowed their clinical judgment as the point of authority is now the Government’s Library of Standards (see July 2010 DoH White Paper:  ) as defined by NICE.

The labeling once given by the professional, (for example, the patient lacks sanity by being ‘depressed’ or ‘anxious’ or …,) then allows the treatment to be prescribed by NICE.  So the patient’s uniqueness as a human BEING is lost within the label.

The treatment is one where the professional decides what is for the Good of the patient.  (Read Jean-Louis Gault on this – go to contributors to access his text)

The patient is passive in this decision and in the reception of the treatment.  Even if they protest, as does Madame de Misteval (the mother in de Sade’s ‘Philosophy in the Boudoir) & the prisoners in the Professor Zimbardo’s prison experiment. (See Pierre Naveau’s text accessible in category: contributors & my comment on the ‘Government as Experimenter’ category:  LW WG.)  They have the Other’s solution stuffed into them.  This relationship of Master-Slave is assumed in all the Government’s supported treatments via NICE, Skills for Health’s competencies, etc.


And they did not produce Government-issue standard human BEINGS, just as modern day treatments fail………


Ruby Wax ends with the question of whether in 100 years time people will look back at the Government’s current regime for those that lack Government-standard well-being and be equally appalled.


I think future generations will question our gullibility in thinking wellbeing can be restored to Government order and our unquestioning belief in the magic of commercially-driven drugs. Drugs can be used to cosh into submission – they are not a politically neutral intervention.


It all depends on whether you define non-standard human BEINGS as lesser to you or different and equal.  From what assumptions do you start?  On what principles does the treatment proceed – is it a subject you are treating?  Are you superior to the subject you are treating by way of your degrees, your training, the Government’s safety kite-mark you have acquired via HPC or CHRE or because you enjoy the power to put right those with psychic distress?

It is important that these issues are raised with those with political influence – your mp, your local councillor, any members of the House of Lords you know so that the principles driving systems of care are examined.


PS  Ruby Wax’s final line is brilliant………..





[i] National Treasures Live: 3. Shakespeare Dig Stratford

BBC One / 24 Aug 2011

Live from Stratford Upon Avon, Dan Snow and Sian Williams continue their series celebrating the best in British history. In this programme, they investigate claims that William Shakespeare may not have been the author of the classic plays, and join an excavation at the house where he died.

Plus, Ruby Wax takes a look at some of the grisly techniques that were used on patients inside Victorian asylums.